Offensive players in the NFL are reportedly offering to pay the fines of defenders who hit them high to discourage defenders from hitting them low in order to avoid hefty fines and suspensions that could come after helmet-to-helmet hits.
As ESPN noted, “with the NFL’s aggressive crackdown against hits to the head and neck — a response to the ongoing concussion crisis — some players expressed concerns that defensive players would simply start to go low to avoid drawing penalties, fines and suspensions.”
Washington’s Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark “both said offensive players have offered to pay their fines if they hit them high rather than low.” When ESPN “asked how often that has happened, Meriweather said: ‘All the time. All the time.'” Tennessee’s Michael Griffin told ESPN, “I’ve had a lot of guys say, ‘Just hit me high, just knock me out. I don’t care, as long as I’d be able to play next week, I’m perfectly fine, but don’t go low.'”
After Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game last year after being hit in the knees, Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger, who delivered the hit, said after the game, “I’m sorry that this happened, but, you know, with the rules, I had to go low. And that’s something that I’m going to start doing now, you know, just to play within the rules.” T.J. Ward, who knocked out New England tight end Rob Gronkowski after a low hit when he was with Cleveland, told ESPN that, “when they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen.”
“It’s pretty much inevitable, and they forced our hand with this one,” Ward said.
Keller told the outlet, “Absolutely, 100 percent I’d rather be hit high… just like anybody else… you get hit high, say you get a concussion: That’s tough to deal with, you may miss a game or two or something like that. But you still get to go home, walk home to your family.”
Clark, the Washington defender, said that defenders can also be jeopardized by the new rules against high hits.
“You’re opening yourself up for shoulder injuries and neck injuries because you’re trying to hit guys bigger than you running full speed in their midsection, in their hips, in their thighs,” Clark told the outlet. “If you’re going to protect offensive players in that matter so heavily, so staunchly, there’s no way to protect us on the other side of it.”
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